Yuecheng Zhu

  • Designation: Shanghai World Foreign Language Academy
  • Country: China
  • Title: The Impact and Underlying Neurophysiology of Piano Practice on Dementia Development and Treatment


Ms. Zhu is a student at the Shanghai World Foreign Language Academy. She loves music and sports, and her goal is to become a health care provider. She has been working with Dr. Wenbing Zhu, a Professor and former Chair at the Department of Neurology, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, to study how music and sports affect human well-being and longevity. 


Dementia is a significant health issue in the elderly population. It is characterized by a decline in cognition involving one or more cognitive domains (learning and memory, language, executive function, complex attention, perceptual-motor, and social cognition). Piano practice involves all cognitive domains and requires dynamic integration of motor, perceptual, cognitive, emotive operations, and social interactions. We hypothesized that piano practice could prevent dementia development and treat dementia with an underlying neurophysiological basis.

Methods: We extensively reviewed literature using two key terms, ‘piano’ and ‘dementia’, to search Pubmed, PsycINFO and SCOPUS. We further reviewed additional literature, including references to published articles, and identified articles that provided evidence of piano practice as an intervention for dementia.

Results: We found 12 original studies on piano practice as an intervention for dementia. Short-term practice, i.e., three to six months of piano training, was correlated to improvement in multiple cognitive domains of older patients. Compared to the control group, experimental groups with piano practice improved memory, planning, concentration, and strategy maintenance compared to the control groups. Long-term piano training can improve memory, motor, and cognitive capabilities. Furthermore, piano practice can enhance executive function and offset low education. To determine the underlying neurophysiological basis of the benefits of piano practice, one study discovered that piano practice strongly induced oscillatory gamma band activity, reflecting higher perceptual learning. Another study shows that piano practice can induce brain activity in specific areas as determined by a ­­­15O-water positron emission tomography.

Conclusion: Piano practice improves multiple cognitive domains associated with dementia, can possibly prevent dementia development, and is supported by the underlying neurophysiological changes. 

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